Tuesday, August 23, 2011

World of Tanks - Early Review

I've got three posts lined up for the next three days all linked together by my recent experience in trying out World of Tanks. First I'm going to talk about WoT and what I think of it, then tomorrow I'll compare the game with Eve Online, and then finally we'll take a hard look at whether or not Eve should have some sort of arena battle functionality and how it might be implemented.

Full Disclaimer - growing up I read a lot of books about World War II and loved games about the era. From my perspective as a amateur military history buff, WW2 was the perfect time where the technology had advanced to a point where it was recognizably modern without being so powerful as to remove the personal face to face aspect of combat. This is from a many times removed perspective of course and I in no way want to romanticize the suffering and horrible losses due to the war (or any war), I'm just saying from a game simulation point of view, WW2 is the perfect backdrop in my humble opinion.

Anyway, on with the post.

World of Tanks is an online free-to-play game in which players battle against other players in various game modes while taking the roles of various tanks from the World War II era. Currently there are three factions of tanks to choose from - Soviet Union, Germany, and United States (and more are planned) - and players are not restricted in owning tanks from all three factions at once. The tanks are divided into ten tiers and five types: the higher the tier the more powerful overall the tank is, with tier I being the rookie beginner tank and tier X (roman numerals, baby!).

The main game play mode, Random Battles, has a match matcher algorithm that pits 15 players and their chosen tanks against a team of 15 other players and their chosen tanks, using the tank tiers plus tank upgrades plus tank types to try and get two even teams. You can join up with up to three friends in a platoon to get matched in the same match on the same team as well. The goal of random battles is to destroy all of the enemy or to capture their base first.


German Tech Tree

The types are as follows:

Light Tanks - these are fast and agile tanks that act as main battle tanks in lower tier matches (i.e. random battles that are mostly tier I and II tanks with perhaps a couple tier III) and simply scouts in higher tier battles to "light up" the enemy for artillery or long range tanks. They tend to have light weapons that fire fast and are best used in mobile situations, threatening slower tanks.

Medium Tanks - bigger than light tanks but still being mobile and fast compared to larger vehicles, medium tanks act as main battle tanks in lower tier matches and scouts in highest tier battles. They tend to be the bane of light tanks due to being able to mostly keep up with them and having more armour and firepower.

Heavy Tanks - these are the main battle tanks and pretty much their job is to kill the enemy that have been spotted by the light and medium scouts. Lots of armour, lots of firepower, lots of range, but slow to get around.

Tank Destroyers - These are specialized tanks starting at tier II and go all the way up to tier IX or X, they essentially have more firepower then similar tiered tanks but even less mobility and, except for rare cases, lack a turret so that they can't fire to the sides or rear on the move, and are not great at tracking moving targets. They are great for meeting the enemy face on in a small front, but are very vulnerable to being flanked and attacked from the rear.

Artillery - "Death From Above." Artillery have the biggest guns for their tiers and can fire indirectly for amazing range (using a bird's eye view mode) but have terrible accuracy, slow reload times, depend on team mates to spot the enemy, and god help you if a light or medium tank gets in the rear where artillery is hanging out because they will mess you up. Not to mention that terrain and buildings can make blind spots where your ballistic arc just can't get behind. And artillery are slow to move for the most part. Against a slow moving or static target then artillery is fun and deadly, but in all other circumstances it can be an art form to get even splash damage.

There are other game play modes I have not tried out and I just got my first tier III tank last night and its still stock with no research for new modules done or purchased. Let's talk about the economy, shall we?


There are essentially three currencies in WoT:

Experience - while technically not a currency per say it might as well be. You earn experience in fighting battles, and you get more they better you do (hits, kills, damage, base capture points, scouting, if your team wins). Most of the experience you earn is tied to the tank you fought in the battle with, and a small fraction goes into a pool of Free Experience. You spend experience to unlock better weapons and equipment (gun, turret, suspension (higher speed), engine (better acceleration), radio (better team communications)) and to unlock higher tier tanks. By default you use only the experience earned by the tank, and if it is all used up you can throw in some Free Experience from its pool.

When a tank has all equipment and tanks unlocked on its research page, you can direct future experience earned to accelerate crew training (I'm not touching upon crew here as its still fuzzy to me, but essentially think of it as equipment that helps tank performance and gets better over time) or you can continue to accrue it with an eye to converting it to Free Experience later on (more on that in a bit).

Credits - the main currency of the game, this is what you use to buy and repair tanks, ammo, equipment, and train crew. With some exceptions but more on that in a bit. You get credits from battles and like experience, you get more the better you and your side does and the higher the tiers involved. You can sell tanks you own for credits but it is at a terrible rate and as far as I can tell, is all NPC market driven (i.e. no selling/buying between players). You might consider selling tanks as your skills improve to the next tier and you need to free up some hanger space as by default you only have 5 slots for tanks.

Gold - Here's where the game makes its money. You buy gold using real life money for various rates:
25000 =
$ 99.95
$ 49.95
$ 29.95
$ 14.95
$ 6.95

So what do you use the gold for?

- buy additional hanger slots for more tanks (300 gold)

- convert experience tied to a specific tank to Free Experience (1 gold per 25 exp converted)

- get more credits (1 gold for 400 credits)

- premium tanks that cannot be purchased with credits that are slightly better than tanks of the same class at the same tier (but advantage is taken into account when determining teams), for example a tier II light tank is 700 gold IIRC, tier VIII heavy tank is 12500 gold, etc.

- "gold ammo" that is more powerful than regular ammo but fairly expensive to use often (1 gold per shell for low tier tanks)

- certain upgrade items on tanks cannot be removed unless you spend gold

- training crew to 100% requires gold (I forget how much)

- getting a Premium account:
The most important thing that Gold is used for is to buy subscription to the premium account. It gives 50% more credits and 50% more experience per battle, clean garage and the possibility of creating platoons. The best thing in that is getting 50% more credits. It is a better deal more than you'd think, as the profit after paying for repairs and ammo increases two- or threefold, depending on your performance in battle (amount of damage, destroyed tanks, base captured/defended, etc).
The table below shows that keeping an account always at premium status would cost $10 US per month if you purchased the 25,000 gold package.

Extending Premium
Cost Length Days
2,500 Gold 1 month 30 days
1,250 Gold 1 week 7 days
650 Gold 3 days 3 days
250 Gold 1 day 1 day

As you can see, the advantage of a premium account are considerable especially when we get to my next topic, progression.


I have to give the designers of WoT some credit: they have designed the perfect game to work in a free-to-play model that will actually generate income.

Without paying any money, the initial progression is fast and furious. Battles last maximum 15 minutes but are often over in 5-10 minutes, the variety of maps even for lower tier matches keeps it fresh and interesting, and your research on your starter tanks and subsequent improvements on equipment is at a frequent pace such that you are getting something new to try out every couple battles or so. And while a tank is tied up in a battle until it is over, you can exit the battle and start a new one in another tank right away (and you start with all three tier I tanks) so that the downtime is minimal.

You get to tier II and its much the same: more experience required to unlock stuff but you are getting more experience and credits in battles. "I don't need no stinking gold!" you declare confidently, feeling like you are making off like a thief.

But the first flags that all is not well in the universe start to pop up.
- A new radio is 4040 experience when all previous modules were in the low hundreds range.
- A tier III tank destroyer is 78000 credits when your previous tier II tanks were only around 12000.
- You want to add a cameo net to make it harder to be spotted but are shocked when it costs 500,000 credits

It quickly became obvious to me that the game is designed to get you hooked early on and then put the pressure on to purchase gold to keep a flat progression line (or close to it) instead of facing a big grind to keep going. Even more diabolical, the low price of the smallest unit of gold (i.e. $7) is yet another entry drug to get you to move from "I'm not paying" to "I'll pay a little just this once so I can get X" which is the first step to paying often for those perks you don't want to grind and wait for.

Don't get me wrong, I love this design. The grind is still fun for me because I have three very different tanks I switch between (one light, one destroyer, one artillery) and the variety of maps, match tiers, and tanks I am using has kept the game fresh. Yet I can see me buying gold once in a while for a few of those convenience things yet I don't think its mandatory to compete in the matches.

It remains to be seen if the non-gold-fueled progression slows to such a crawl that my opinion changes, but 120 battles in and I'm still excited at the prospect of logging in for a 10-15 session for a couple battles whenever I can manage it. Right now, for me, the game works.

Tomorrow we compare and contrast with Eve Online and answer that very important question: "Does it blend?"


  1. I started playing this too a few weeks ago, it's great for squeezing some instant pvp into an otherwise busy schedule.

    Crew, by the way, work like this: you have stats on your tank, say view range. Your commander (who is the one that sees stuff) has a skill of 60%. This means you're only getting 60% of the stated range. Same for all your crew- gunner (aim time), loader (reload time), driver (engine HP), and radio op (signal range). When you get the 100% (or more, with commander skill bonus and tank modules) you get the full stated stats shown on the tank.

  2. Anonymous6:26 pm

    I played WoT during the beta for a bit. I never really got into it. But for some reason it seems to be the de facto secondary game to play while afk pos bashing, afk ice/gas mining, afk missioning, etc.